|Traditional skills of the Bushmen - Part 1: BUSHMAN WEAPONS|
By Koos Moorcroft and Raphael Gunduza
This is the first in a series of articles highlighting the natural skills of the Bushmen as effective and successful bowhunters, as well as outstanding trackers with a remarkable understanding of nature.
The series will discuss:
As early as 1685 the Cape Dutch recognised the Bushmens skill as hunters of game and gatherers of natural foods. They were referred to by the Dutch as Bosjemans and thereafter known as the Bushmen of Southern Africa.
Following the formation of the South African Special Forces (better known as Recces) during the early 1970s, it was decided to establish a training base in the border area where Special Force soldiers could execute bush exercises and acclimatise for the bush conditions while preparing for operations. A training and operational base was subsequently established in the Caprivi, West of the Quando river. At the time, Bushmen resided in the surrounding areas, from East Kunene to the Quando Cubango region.
Owing to their outstanding bush knowledge and keen sense of direction, the Portuguese Army utilised Bushmen as trackers in South East Angola. A small number were also employed as trackers and guides by the Recces. Eventually, a battalion of Bushmen, known as 31 Batallion, was formed under the command of Cmdt Delville Linford.
In 1975 two members of 31 Bn, Sgt Tango Naka and Sgt Phillip Calumbete became the first non-white soldiers to be trained at 1 Parachute Battalion in Bloemfontein on the use of a military parachute. Their bushcraft skills, tracking capability, sense of direction and knowledge of nature made them invaluable to the Recce teams and the two participated in numerous airborne reconnaissance missions.
Raphael Gunduza, ex-Special Force bushcraft, tracking and survival instructor at Recce training and operations base Fort Doppies, worked and lived with the Bushmen of Fort Doppies for many years, while Sergeant Major Koos Moorcroft, also an ex-Special Force instructor, trained the first two Bushmen soldiers on the use of a military parachute.
With this as background we start the series on the traditional skills of the Bushmen with a discussion on their traditional weaponry.
The wood for the bow was selected from a hard but springloaded bush, known as the Sickle bush (Dichrostachys Cinerea).
The bow string was rolled with strips of sinew from the back muscles of a gemsbok. The Bushman would roll the string on the surface of his thigh while kneeling until a length of 90cm was achieved. Still wet, the bow string was then tied the to bow with a series of knots and loops. The bow had a pull of about 9kg.
The stem of the main shaft was made of a 40cm length of perennial grass. A link shaft connected the arrowhead to the main shaft and prevented an animal from rubbing off the arrowhead in its body against a bush or tree. The poisoned arrowhead remained in the hide of the hunted animal, while the arrowshaft, link and joint (also made of grass) would drop off so that it could be used again later.
The arrowhead was made of animal bone or stiff wire, usually fencing wire, 10cm long and heated and straightened with the top beaten into a small, flat triangular blade. The total weight of the arrow was about 15g. It was capable of knocking down only the smallest antelope and smaller game.
Rolling sticks and base
Container for hunting tools
|Reference material: The Kung! San – Richard Borshay Lee|
The bushman's arsenal
Bushmen were unable to draw a heavy bow to hunt and had to rely on smaller and lighter bows with the arrowhead covered in poison.
|Updated: Thursday, May 26, 2005 10:40 AM|